The name Commander calls to mind images of daring swashbucklers on fearless adventures at the far corners of the earth. As such, Jeep's latest SUV is aptly named; it possesses every inch of the go-anywhere bravado implicit in its moniker. With three rows of seating and room for up to seven passengers, the Commander is the most spacious SUV Jeep has ever produced.
Although not quite as capable off-road as the smaller Jeeps, among SUVs in its size class the Commander is a superb trail-buster, able to tackle rock-strewn paths and steep mountain tracks without breaking a sweat. Less thrilling, however, are the Jeep Commander's lackluster interior materials, cramped third row, so-so cargo capacity and poor fuel mileage with the larger engines.
Current Jeep Commander
The three-row Jeep Commander is available in two trims: Sport and Limited. The Sport comes standard with power accessories, a power driver seat, air-conditioning and a CD stereo. The Limited trim honeys the mix with heated leather seats, automatic dual-zone climate control, power-adjustable pedals, a power tailgate, satellite radio and a power sunroof with twin skylights in the second row. Buyers can also snag options like a navigation system and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system.
The base Jeep Commander Sport gets its pep from a standard 3.7-liter V6 capable of 210 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque, a barely adequate engine in the 4,800-pound Commander. The Limited model has more punch thanks to a 5.7-liter V8 (optional on Sport), which cranks out 357 hp and 389 lb-ft of torque. Those who choose the base model may equip it with a full-time all-wheel-drive system. Jeep also offers two sophisticated four-wheel-drive systems for those planning to take their Commanders on off-road trails, including Quadra-Drive II, which features Hill Start and Descent Assist technology. All models come with a five-speed automatic transmission.
Slide inside the Commander's cabin and you'll find yourself enveloped in comfortable seats. An upscale two-tone decor makes for an attractive interior, but there's too much hard plastic for an SUV in this price range. (The Limited is a bit nicer.) There aren't any midsize SUVs that offer truly spacious third-row seating; still, even by these low standards, legroom in the Commander's third row falls short and is suitable only for children. Cargo capacity is unspectacular as well, largely because of the packaging issues created by the Jeep's solid-axle rear suspension and generous ground clearance. The SUV offers 7.5 cubic feet with all three rows in use, 36.4 with the third row stowed and 68.9 cubic feet with all rear seats folded. These numbers would be OK for a compact SUV, but they're minuscule for a midsize sport-ute.
In reviews, we've praised the Jeep Commander for its off-road capabilities and powerful available V8. Opinions about ride quality are mixed; some have found the Jeep to provide a tranquil ride but others, expecting a more secure feel, deem it wallowy. Handling on pavement is competent for a nearly 5,000-pound vehicle, but not the least bit sporting. The base V6 doesn't hustle the Commander with much authority. The 5.7-liter V8 is both powerful and relatively fuel-efficient.
Used Jeep Commander Models
The Jeep Commander debuted in the 2006 model year. The Limited came with a 4.7-liter V8 prior to 2010; it generated 235 hp and 305 lb-ft of torque until 2008, when it was bumped up to 305 hp and 334 lb-ft. The 5.7-liter V8 made 330 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque till '09, when it went up to 357 hp and 389 lb-ft.
For '07, the luxurious Overland trim debuted; it was equipped similarly to the Limited but with special interior and exterior trim. For '08, the Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist electronic driving aids arrived for Commanders with Quadra-Drive II. The Commander Limited and Overland's interior materials quality were improved for '09. For '10, the Overland trim disappeared, and the 4.7-liter V8 was discontinued, leaving the powerful 5.7-liter V8 as standard on the Limited models, along with a power liftgate.
Reliability was spotty on early-build 2006 models, so consumers looking for used Jeep Commanders would be wise to seek out later-build models or else hold off on a purchase until there's a bit more to choose from on the used market.